I sampled a wonderfully rich vegetable dish at an
Indian vegetarian restaurant in Los Angeles owned by a Sikh chef. The
dish, navratan korma, was made of diced vegetables in a buttery sauce,
enhanced with little chunks of paneer, or Indian cheese, as well as
cashews and raisins. One of the chef's two turbaned sons, who were in
charge of serving, explained that this dish was cooked in the northern
fact, korma is a category of Indian specialties. I had eaten lamb korma
before, but this was my first taste of a vegetarian korma. According to
Jennifer Brennan, author of Curries and Bugles: A Memoir and a Cookbook of the British Raj
"Korma is actually the Indian name for the technique of braising meat.
It originated in the lavish Moghul cuisine wherein lamb or chicken was
braised in velvety, spiced sauces, enriched with ground nuts, cream and
butter. While kormas are rich, they are also mild, containing little or
no cayenne or chillies."
Brennan flavors her lamb korma with fresh ginger, sauteed
onions, garlic, ground coriander, black pepper, cardamom, cloves and
turmeric, as well as lime juice and sugar, and thickens it with ground
almonds and cream. Others use rich yogurt instead of cream.
Julie Sahni, author of Moghul Microwave
, compares Moghul
food to classic French cuisine and calls it "the food of the
aristocrats... represents splendor, beauty and a certain elegance in
every dish." In fact, she notes, this style did not originate entirely
in India. The Moghuls, who ruled the subcontinent from the 16th to the
19th century, were originally from Turkish Persia, and brought many
cooking techniques and dishes from their native land, and then
incorporated Indian ingredients.
Sahni considers korma of vegetables "an aristocratic
vegetarian masterpiece." This is noteworthy because she makes the dish
from common vegetables - her recipe features carrots, turnips, green
beans and cauliflower. It's the sauce and spices that make vegetable
korma a dish fit for nobility. The vegetables are cooked in milk and
then added to a sauce of tomatoes and cream flavored with sweet spices
- cinnamon, cardamom and cloves, as well as fresh ginger and a little
cayenne. Other vegetable kormas are enriched with nut butters or fruit
Stendahl, author of The Bombay Palace Cookbook
luxurious korma dishes using butter and heavy cream with a liberal
hand, raisins and almonds as garnishes and saffron as a primary
seasoning. He calls navratan korma "a jewel-like fantasy of
vegetables," and notes that the word navratan translates as diamonds;
to make it, you use nine vegetables and cut them into diamond shapes.
This recalls French classic recipes that call for carving vegetables
into pointed ovals, tiny squares or other shapes.
were first prepared in the Moghul kitchens in northwest India and
gradually spread to much of the country. Maya Kaimal, author of Savoring the Spice Coast of India
presents a south Indian version of the dish as prepared in Kerala. Hers
is a chicken korma, enriched with coconut and cashew paste, which is
perfect for kosher cooking. Kaimal's korma is peppery; in addition to
the usual ginger, garlic and sauteed onions, her version includes hot
green chilies and cayenne pepper.
INDIAN CHICKEN BREASTS IN ALMOND CASHEW COCONUT SAUCE
This dish is inspired by a specialty I learned from Indian cooking expert Neelam Batra, author of 1,000 Indian Recipes
Neelam flavors the sauce for this aromatic chicken dish mostly with
fresh seasonings rather than dried spices, and then thickens it with
ground almonds and cashews. She makes it with yogurt; I use coconut
milk to make it kosher. Serve this luxurious dish with plenty of hot
cooked rice, preferably basmati.
You can keep the chicken, covered, for two days in the
refrigerator. If necessary, add a few tablespoons coconut milk or
chicken broth when reheating.
1.4 kg. or 1.5 kg boneless skinless chicken breast halves
a 1- to 2-cm. piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut in 4 pieces
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 small onion, quartered
1 medium tomato, quartered
1⁄2 cup chopped fresh coriander
1⁄2 cup coconut milk (unsweetened)
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 or 3 dried red peppers (optional)
10 almonds, ground
10 cashews, ground
1⁄4 tsp. ground cloves, or to taste
1⁄4 tsp. ground cinnamon, or to taste
3 whole black cardamoms, pounded lightly
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh coriander sprigs and tomato wedges for garnish
Cut each chicken breast half in two pieces.
Process ginger, garlic, onion, tomato and cilantro in a food processor or blender until well blended.
Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat and saute whole dried
peppers for 1 minute. Add almonds, cashews, cloves, cinnamon,
cardamoms, salt and pepper. Saute 1 minute, stirring; do not let spices
Immediately stir in onion-tomato puree, followed by chicken
pieces. Stir in coconut milk. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat
to medium and cook until chicken is tender and sauce is thick, about 20
to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If sauce is not thick enough,
uncover pan and cook for a few minutes longer.
Garnish with coriander sprigs and tomato wedges and serve.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
MOGHUL VEGETABLE CURRY
This vegetable dish, enriched with almonds, butter and yogurt, is from Charmaine and Reuben Solomon's book, The Complete Curry Cookbook.
I have added cumin to their list of spices, and raisins and fresh
coriander as a garnish. Their recipe calls for ghee, or Indian
clarified butter. If you can get Yemenite samneh, which is similar, you
can substitute it. Otherwise use butter or vegetable oil. Use any
combination of vegetables you like, cut in small pieces, or even a
frozen vegetable medley. Cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms, turnips,
zucchini, white squash (kishuim), corn kernels and pumpkin are also good in this dish.
The Solomons recommend Indian bread as an accompaniment. Fresh
pita is also good instead, or you can serve the creamy vegetables with